It is just two weeks since Boris Johnson came over all loyal at the Conservative party conference. The Mayor, it was reported, was putting his weight behind David Cameron because of the presence of Lynton Crosby and the apparent private offer of a safe seat. But it looks like he’s back to being troublesome by immediately questioning the government’s announcement that it will be relaxing visa rules for Chinese tourists. He told the World at One:

‘Well, we’ll have to see how this scheme actually works because the detail is a little bit unclear to us at the moment and I’m initially very, obviously very supportive and would hope that it will make sure that we are able to get large numbers of Chinese students, of tourists, people who are going to bring income to our city.’

This is being written up in some quarters as the Mayor being unhelpful to the government, and to a certain extent he is because he’s not just running around shouting that he thinks the new policy is wonderful and well done to all his clever colleagues for doing it. But it’s also just Boris doing his job as Mayor, something he has to balance with this new loyal stance that he’s taking. Part of his brand and indeed his case for being a future Tory leader involves thumping various tubs for London, and the problems with visa rules are a key part of that. He also took care to say that he was ‘initially very, obviously very supportive’. It is when he is making the case for policies that help London that Boris most clearly makes the case for directly-elected mayors of other cities: figures who all defend their own turf and make life difficult for ministers until they introduce such policies.

Indeed, even amidst his own burst of support for Dave in Manchester was a bid from the Mayor for cities to get more control over the money raised from taxes in their areas. Obviously, when the Mayor started talking about taxes in his rally speech, everyone switched off, but there it was, the Mayor lobbying his colleagues on arrangements that will benefit London. He will have to work out a way of doing this without appearing to be keen to just cause trouble for his colleagues as he has in the past, but Boris can’t stop this essential part of his job just because of a covert agreement about his future.

Tags: Boris Johnson, Immigration, UK politics, Visa